Unusual Windfall from Liposuction

Rich in Stem Cells

A surprising find was reported in July of 2008: the fat removed with liposuction from the lower abdomen and inner thighs is rich in stem cells with a concentration of the important cells at a much higher level than from other parts of the human body. This according to the medical journal for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported on the Brazilian study which represents the first of its kind and is an attempt to see how fat in different areas of the body may vary in terms of their stem cell concentration.

Strong Promise

J. Peter Rubin, MD, one of the researchers responsible for this body of work, stated, “Adult stem cells, derived from our own tissues, hold strong promise for improved clinical therapies.” Rubin is part of the ASPS Fat Grafting Task Force whose current work involves studying the stem cells derived from fat. Rubin feels that stem cells hold great potential for undoing damage to the body from illness and trauma, for instance, from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal injuries, heart failure, along with breast cancer and reconstruction. The researcher even dreams of a permanent method by which wrinkles can be removed forever, or breasts augmented, using a natural, body-based substance such as stem cell enriched fat. “Knowing more about the biology of stem cells will be of great value when we are ready for clinical trials in this country.”

For the uninitiated, stem cells are cells that have not yet attained a special function, and have the ability to regenerate, divide, and reproduce. Doctors and scientists believe these cells provide an amazing resource for the repair or replacement of cells which have become damaged or diseased. Researchers are hot on this particular research trail, with clinical trials being undertaken in both Europe and Asia on stem cells derived from fat. In the United States, the situation is a bit different, with pre-clinical trial work being performed that will satisfy the current safety guidelines as set down by the FDA. Legislation relating to stem cell research is still somewhere in the distant and murky horizon.

For the purposes of this study, 23 women, candidates for liposuction performed on a minimum of four separate areas of the body, consented to have the liposuctioned fat isolated for adult stem cells, and then measured to find the concentration of these cells in the fat from the different body areas. Fat was removed from the flank and hips, inner thigh, inner knee, upper abdomen, and lower abdomen.

Researchers discovered a vast disparity in stem cell concentrations from the fat suctioned out of individual body portions with the largest concentration of these cells found in the fat of the lower abdomen and inner thighs. The stem cell concentration in the fat removed from the lower abdomen was found to be five times greater than that of the fat taken from the upper abdomen.

Speaking to the valuable store of stem cells available through this fat, ASPS President Richard D’Amico, MD stated, “Using stem cells will some day have very practical applications to the specialty of plastic surgery. That we may be able to generate new tissue or bone that can be used in many of the reconstructive and cosmetic procedures we do every day is a tremendous.”

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